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First therefore, Hermeas the geometrician demanded of Protogenes the grammarian a reason why Alpha was the first letter of the alphabet. And he returned the common answer of the schools, that it was fit the vowels should be set before the mutes and semi vowels. And of the vowels, some being long, some short, some both long [p. 439] and short, it is just that the latter should be most esteemed. And of these that are long and short, that is to be set first which is usually placed before the other two but never after either; and that is Alpha. For that put either after Iota or Upsilon will not be pronounced, will not make one syllable with them, but as it were resenting the affront and angry at the position, seeks the first as its proper place. But if you place Alpha before either of those, they are obedient, and quietly join in one syllable, as in these words, αὔριον, αὐλεῖν, Αἴαντος, αἰδεῖσθαι, and a thousand others. In these three respects therefore, as the conquerors in all the five exercises, it claims the precedence,—that of most other letters by being a vowel, that of other vowels by being double-timed, and lastly, that of these double-timed vowels themselves because it is its natural place to be set before and never after them.
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